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Cruise ship fatally ignored fishermen, suit claims

A Panamanian man who watched his two companions die while surviving at sea for 28 days in their small disabled boat has sued a U.S. cruise line, alleging one of its ships failed to help.

Panamanian survivor says 2 companions died as a result

Passengers on the Star Princess cruise liner say it ignored three fishermen frantically calling for help in the Gulf of Panama. (Joel Estay/Reuters)

A Panamanian man who watched his two companions die while surviving at sea for 28 days in their small disabled boat has sued a U.S. cruise line, alleging one of its ships failed to help, his attorney said Sunday.

Attorney Edna Ramos said the lawsuit alleging negligence by Prince Cruise Lines was filed in a Florida state court on behalf of Adrian Vazquez.   

A photo taken by a passenger on the Star Princess apparently shows a stricken boat on the Gulf of Panama, which the cruise liner's crew allegedly ignored.

Vazquez, 18, and companions Fernando Osorio, 16, and Elvis Oropeza, 31, set off for a night of fishing on Feb. 24 from Rio Hato, a small fishing and farming town on the Pacific coast of Panama that was once the site of a U.S. Army base guarding the Panama Canal. The boat's motor broke down on the way back and the men drifted at sea for 16 days before seeing a cruise ship approach March 10.   

Vazquez has said the men signalled for help, but the ship did not stop. Princess Cruises has said passengers never told the ship's captain they saw a boat.   

Osorio and Oropeza died later. Vazquez was rescued on March 22 near Ecuador's Galapagos Islands, more than 1,000 kilometres from where they had set out.   

Ramos said the lawsuit includes testimony from two cruise ship passengers who have said they saw the disabled boat and reported it to a cruise representative on the Star Princess liner.   

Jeff Gilligan, a birdwatcher from Portland, Oregon, has told journalists that he was among the first passengers to notice the small boat. Another birdwatcher, Judy Meredith of Bend, Oregon, has also said she saw the small open boat and through her bird-spotting scope could see a man waving what looked like a dark red T-shirt.   

Meredith has said she told a Princess Cruises sales representative what she and Gilligan had seen and that he assured her he had passed the news on to the ship's crew. The two passengers said they put the sales representative on one of the spotting scopes so he could see the small boat for himself.

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